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Friday, January 12, 2007

Will Chris Webber Decide Who Wins the 2007 NBA Title?

Stop me if you've heard this story before: an All-Star power forward wears out his welcome with several teams; he amasses impressive statistics but his teams do not win any championships; by the time his last team gives up on him, he is barely averaging 10 ppg and his career seems to be coming to an unceremonious end. Sounds like Chris Webber, right? It does, but I'm actually referring to Bob McAdoo. The Lakers acquired McAdoo in December 1981 to replace the injured Mitch Kupchak and McAdoo revived his career, making indispensable contributions to two Lakers title runs in the next four years. Then Lakers Coach Pat Riley has said on more than one occasion that the Lakers would not have won those championships without McAdoo.

As you've probably heard by now, the Philadelphia 76ers have bought out Chris Webber's contract and will waive him, enabling him to sign with any team in the league. TNT's David Aldridge reported that it is virtually certain that Webber, a Michigan native who played his college ball for the University of Michigan, will land with the Detroit Pistons but Webber refuted that suggestion just a short while later when he was interviewed by Ernie Johnson and the TNT studio crew. Time will tell if Aldridge spoke too soon or if Webber will pull a "Saban" and end up in Detroit. Meanwhile, it is tantalizing to consider some of the possibilities. Webber said that money is not an issue--which is an easy stance to take when you've just received tens of millions of dollars from the Sixers--and that his primary concern is that he wants to go to a team that is contending for a title. That rules out most of the teams in the East including, if Webber is smart, Detroit; regardless of the Pistons' regular season record, this team is clearly on a downward arc as a playoff squad--champions in '04, runner-up in '05, conference finalist in '06. The two most important pieces of that championship team--Coach Larry Brown and perennial Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace--are gone and Webber does not have enough left in the tank to replace their contributions.

One interesting possibility for Webber if he wants to reprise McAdoo's career renaissance is to go where McAdoo is currently an assistant coach and where Pat Riley is running the show--the Miami Heat. That might sound crazy at first, but Miami is the defending champion and the main thing that the Heat are trying to do is stay in the playoff hunt while Shaquille O'Neal and Riley get recharged for the playoffs. Would anybody in the East really want to face the Heat in the playoffs if O'Neal is completely healthy and Riley is on the bench calling the shots? Webber told TNT that based on being a 20-10 player last year that he still considers himself a starting player. He would not likely be a starter in Detroit but he could start at center or power forward right now for the Heat and could start at power forward alongside Shaq once the Diesel returns. Honestly, no other team in the East makes sense for Webber at this stage of his career.

If Webber decides to go to the Western Conference, there are several destinations that would be a good fit. How about San Antonio? The Spurs have not been getting enough out of the center position. Webber said that he would be willing to play center. Duncan and Webber would be an interesting frontcourt tandem. Another intriguing option is the L.A. Lakers. Andrew Bynum and Kwame Brown have shown promise but I'm sure that Coach Phil Jackson would love to have a veteran big man who can rebound and pass. Webber specifically mentioned that he thinks that the triangle offense is perhaps the best offense ever; it is certainly well suited to his skills as a high post passer.

A lot of people seem to believe that Webber is done physically but I disagree. As he pointed out, he was a 20-10 player last year despite having a bad leg. Webber says that his leg is healed now. There is no question that he has not been an explosive leaper since he had microfracture surgery but with the Sixers this year he is still getting about 8 rpg in limited minutes. He can still rebound and he always has been able to pass and that means that in the right situation he can definitely still contribute. Webber's history in clutch situations is not great but if he goes to Miami, San Antonio or the Lakers that will not be a problem: Wade, Duncan or Kobe will have the ball down the stretch, not Webber, but teams will still have to guard him (and box him out), which will provide Webber's teammates more room to operate than they have now.

posted by David Friedman @ 1:33 AM



At Friday, January 12, 2007 9:33:00 AM, Blogger illest said...

He is 20-10 but its misleading. Its not like the Sixers were better because of his 20 and 10. Its like Marbury and his career average of 20 and 8 ast. Good numbers but it hasnt made his team a winner.

Webber looks terrible out there. He just drags his knee. Maybe the Spurs a good fit.

At Friday, January 12, 2007 11:39:00 AM, Blogger Joe said...

Is a PF really the missing piece in Miami? I think Udonis Haslem is fine in that role, and what they really could use is a second guard who can contribute at least 10 ppg or 5 apg.

At Friday, January 12, 2007 4:48:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

The Sixers' problems last year were at the defensive end of the court. I don't think that CWebb's 20-10 hurt the team. He gave up something at the defensive end in one-on-one situations due to his limited mobility but he also provided something in terms of defensive rebounding.

The Heat could use a second guard along the lines of what you described but I think that they can get by with their current backcourt as long as Wade stays healthy. Right now the team is battling just to make the playoffs. I don't know how long Shaq will be out or, more importantly, how long it will take him to be able to play heavy minutes effectively. Zo and Haslem need help up front right now and I think that CWebb can provide it. Then, when Shaq comes back, CWebb can still be a key contributor. CWebb is a better passer than Haslem, at least as good a rebounder (even now) and a better scorer. Haslem's only edge would be at the defensive end of the court.

At Friday, January 12, 2007 4:51:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

One more point about CWebb: he is a 20-10 guy who will be available at a very low price because the Sixers are on the hook for tens of millions of dollars. I think that it could be a potential coup for a championship contending team to add that kind of talent at a bargain basement price. He is not close to being as good as he was in Sacramento but when you look at some of the stiffs who are collecting big paychecks and playing in NBA frontcourts it is clear that CWebb can still be an important piece in the right environment. I think that his attitude and conditioning would also be a lot better once he arrives on a different team, particularly if he goes to Miami, where Pat Riley apparently has his own version of the South Beach diet (just ask Walker and Posey).

At Friday, January 12, 2007 9:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David, David, David,

Please do not use C-Web and Big Mac in the same sentence again. Big Mac was a good guy, the same can't be said for Webber.

At Saturday, January 13, 2007 3:09:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Not sure what you are getting at, Anonymous, but the only comparison that I made is that C Webb could potentially have a similar impact on a title contending team this year that Bob McAdoo had on the Lakers in the early 1980s. I stand by that statement; I am not saying that this will definitely happen (we don't even know where C Webb will end up) but it certainly could happen, particularly if C Webb chooses wisely.

At Sunday, January 14, 2007 1:16:00 PM, Blogger illest said...

Probably not the Spurs since Popovich has never liked Webber from their Warriors days.

At Sunday, January 14, 2007 10:42:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Indeed, shortly after I made the original post there were reports out of San Antonio indicating that the Spurs have no interest in signing C Webb. I wrote my post more from the perspective of what teams would interest me if I were C Webb as opposed to which teams may actually actively try to acquire him. If I were C Webb, I'd look at the Spurs, Heat and Lakers. I know that all the rumor mills have him going to Detroit. That would be a return to home for CWebb but I don't think that the Pistons are the best team for him if his goal is to be a starting player on a contending team.


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